Showing the boundary of the proposed Victoria Road Precinct. Click to enlarge.

Showing the boundary of the proposed 18-hectare Victoria Road Precinct. Click to enlarge.

Call me naïve, but what much of what I learnt during the Council Meetings I observed came as a surprise. One of the most important insights was the incremental changes, brick by brick, & the Victoria Road Precinct is a great example.

The developers came to the May 2012 Council Meeting & said what they wanted to do with the 18-hectare site.  The Councillors voted as follows –

Clrs Olive (Greens), Phillips (Greens), Byrne (Greens), O’Sullivan (Labor) & Wright (Labor) against the proposal.  Mayor Hanna (Ind), Clrs Macri, (Ind), Iskandar (Labor), Tsardoulias (Labor), Thanos (Ind) for the proposal with the then Mayor Hanna (Ind) using his casting vote to pass the vote. See – http://bit.ly/1rF1roi

During the extensive consultation process for the Local Environment Plan (LEP), the community was shown things like height restrictions & floor-space ratio & together with Marrickville Council, agreed on a development plan for the future. I have been very surprised that the LEP has been changed a number of times post approval & is still being amended to allow for more rezoning, development & higher buildings.

Since the LEP was finalised, the total for new dwellings for Marrickville has increased from a government required 4,150 by 2031 to a Councillor increased amount of 12,000 whenever these dwellings can be built.   The debate in Council Meetings went something like, though don’t quote me – “I remember when Marrickville had 110,000 residents & it was busy on the main street. Marrickville can cope.”

Once the LEP was finalised development started & many in the community went into shock with the ugliness of some of the developments, the loss of heritage buildings & the application for 16-storey high-rise in a location where 8-storeys was the maximum in the LEP.

“But how can this be allowed?” was a very common response from the community & they had to start fighting Council to prevent this. Thankfully Railcorp saved the day & stopped the 16-storey development because it encroached on Railcorp land.

In response to community outrage over a high-rise development in Dulwich Hill, Mayor Haylen lobbied for an Architectural Excellence Panel & thankfully, this was established.  Problem is though, this panel cannot be employed to assess every development because of the costs to rate-payers & if the Councillors don’t vote to send the DA to the panel, it doesn’t get assessed.

Earlier this month I sat in a Marrickville Council Meeting & watched the Councillors vote to allow for one-bedroom apartments that were a whopping 40% BELOW the floor-space ratio requirements.  My question is how can this be allowed?

The “Victoria Road Precinct” development is on the agenda for next Tuesday’s Infrastructure, Planning & Environmental Services Committee meeting on 2nd September 2014 & for the first time I see mention of 14-storey buildings planned for this massive 18-hectare site.  This is vastly different from the 6-storey buildings shown in their proposed images of the site that was provided to the Councillors in the Council Meeting of May 2012.

One other point that I think is important is that the development of the Victoria Road Precinct will be razing most of the area to the ground.  Also in Tuesday’s Infrastructure, Planning & Environmental Services Committee meeting is the attempt to save the lovely Beynon & Hayward building in Livingstone Road Petersham to be demolished to extend a Council car park. The community does not want to lose this iconic building, judging by the numbers who signed the petition & the comments left on the local Facebook site. See – http://bit.ly/1skfXi2

Both the National Trust & the Australian Institute of Architects have criticized Marrickville Council over this move. Also an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about the proposed demolishion said –

“London or New York might salivate at the prospect of reviving an inner-city heritage landmark, but in Sydney it seems we’d still just as readily swap character for a car park.”

Back to the Victoria Road Precinct, a new modern glass, steel & concrete precinct is not at all in keeping with the character of Marrickville in my opinion.  Many of these buildings could be repaired & repurposed to make the area similar to those in London or New York. However, the plan is to make this area of Marrickville look like what is happening to Alexandria at the moment – a suburb of high-rise square blocks.

Demolishing all the buildings may be easier for the developers, but I personally think it will be a loss to the community & to Sydney itself.  The Meatpacking District in Manhattan was once regarded as a slum, but since it has been rejuvenated it is now a marvellous place to live & work. Part of the charm is that the buildings were retained & repurposed into housing & employment.

I am in total agreement with this recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald.  It is about the Beynon & Hayward building, but it could just as easily be about the proposed plans for the Victoria Road Precinct.

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Marrickville Council is under heavy fire from heritage experts, who fear “ill-informed” decision makers are repeating Sydney’s errors of last century in the race to redevelop increasingly valuable inner-city space.” See – http://bit.ly/1k8JINc

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Now I must state clearly that I am NOT against development & that I believe that we need more housing.

I just would like development to conform to the height restrictions & floor/space ratios in the LEP, not be substandard housing & also retain as much of the streetscape character of the area. It can be done well & beautifully. See my post on The Gantry in Camperdown http://bit.ly/1sR1PMg for an example of great housing that retains the façade, yet provides housing of a great standard of modern housing for the same or similar financial outlay as other recent housing developments in Marrickville & Dulwich Hill that are currently polarizing the community.

I would also like the so-called “affordable housing” to actually be affordable & for those that are rental “affordable housing” to be given to actual finacially poor people & not to people based on what job they have.

My greatest fear is that I will end up living in an area that has lost much of what motivated me to move here in the first place.  I fear that traffic, which is already becoming unmanageable, will be horrendous. I believe that, if this push for  concrete, glass & steel high-rise goes ahead, the community will be asking why were these developments allowed just like they do about many of the local monstrosities built in the 1970s.

We are in the hands of our Councillors. Let’s hope they do not destroy Marrickville for the profit of developers.

Planning diagram of the development proposal for the Victoria Road precinct back in May 2012 - nothing like the current 14-storeys proposed.

Planning diagram of the development proposal for the Victoria Road precinct back in May 2012 – I can’t see the 14-storeysas currently  proposed.

The planning diagrams for the  Victoria Road frontage of the Victoria Road precinct as part of the development proposal.  Again, nothing like the 14-storeys currently proposed.

The planning diagrams for the Victoria Road frontage of the Victoria Road precinct as part of the development proposal in May 2012. Again, nothing like the 14-storeys currently proposed.

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